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Three busts by Alessandro Algardi
This page shows three busts sculpted by Alessandro Algardi most likely in 1638 and representing Muzio Frangipane and his two sons Lello and Roberto in the family chapel in S. Marcello al Corso.
Alessandro Algardi was born in 1595 in Bologna where he studied with Ludovico Carracci. He was called in Rome in 1625 by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi for whom he restored many Roman statues. In Rome he was protected by Domenichino (also from Bologna), who was the leader of the classical school. He soon became known for the great realism of his busts. He was influenced by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, but he also influenced Bernini.
The Frangipane played a great role in medieval Rome. They fortified the Colosseum and turned it into a fortress. In 1268 a Frangipane betrayed Conradin of Swabia who had sought refuge in the Frangipane's Torre Astura. A Frangipane led the Roman barons against Cola di Rienzo. In the XVIIth century however their role in Rome was very much diminished.
S. Marcello al Corso was founded by Marcellus I, who was pope in 308-309. The church was rebuilt several times until a fire in 1519 destroyed it almost completely. Jacopo Sansovino redesigned the church for Leo X and oriented it towards Via Lata which was more commonly called Via del Corso. The church was completed in 1592, but the façade was totally rebuilt in 1686-1708 by Carlo Fontana.
The Frangipane chapel is on the left side, facing south and thus generally receiving a lot of light. The Frangipane had a military tradition and maybe this explains why the chapel is dedicated to St. Paul.
The decoration of the chapel was entrusted in 1558 to Taddeo Zuccari, who worked on it until his death in 1566 (at the same time he was also working in Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola).
The Conversion of St Paul by Taddeo Zuccari is painted on slate (that's why it shines) and it is a very fine example of Mannerist painting. It is clearly inspired by the fresco by Michelangelo in Cappella Paolina, but St Paul, an old man in Michelangelo's fresco, is now a young and tall soldier and another tall and elegant soldier is shown on the left.
On the left wall of the chapel one sees the monuments to three members of the Frangipane family, Antonino and his two sons Mario and Curzio. The author of these busts is unknown, maybe he had in mind the bust of Michelangelo sculpted by Jean de Boulogne (il Giambologna) now in Museo dell'Accademia in Florence. The dead are portrayed in a very dignified manner, but they look very much alike. In addition the busts look in different directions and the viewer has to shift position to see each of them properly.
On the right wall of the chapel there are three other busts of the same size and inserted in the same marble frame, but the viewer is immediately struck by the fact that he sees three different persons and that the three busts are looking at him. Muzio and his sons Roberto and Lello were all dead when Alessandro Algardi was commissioned their busts, so either he worked by looking at portraits of them or he felt free to represent them as ideal models of a military leader (Muzio), a man of culture (Roberto), a young hero (Lello).
Muzio Frangipane fought for Charles IX of France and maybe the decoration he shows is a reward for his military achievements. Algardi shows a determined man who looks in front of him with assurance. Algardi was famous for his ability to represent details which usually were believed to be outside the scope of sculpture. In this bust he shows that Muzio did not shave the lower part of his face every day.
Roberto Frangipane was also involved with the kings of France as he was an advisor to Henri III, the brother of Charles IX. He was an abbè and as such he was entitled to wear ecclesiastical dress, without necessarily having official ecclesiastical duties. Algardi did not make use of different marbles, nevertheless the hair and the moustaches of Roberto seem of a different color. The portrait shows some distinctive features of a XVIIth century gentleman like the short moustaches and the pointed beard or the somewhat ruffled hair.
Lello Frangipane died in 1600 at the age of 26 during the siege of Sabatellum in Croatia. He was sent there by Pope Clement VIII to support the Habsburgs in containing an Ottoman attack. In the bust he is shown wearing a fine XVIth century armour similar to that shown in the portrait of Cosimo I de' Medici by Angelo Bronzino.
According to the inscription (Bellicae Gloriae Nato) he was born to military glory, but Algardi gave him the sombre and stupefied look of the youth who does not expect to die.
Bernini used to portray his models in the act of talking. Algardi, more in line with the recommendations of the Accademia di S. Luca, thought better to portray them with their mouth shut, but that does not mean that he did not want his busts to talk to the viewer!
Other pages dealing with Baroque sculpture:
Statues in the act of praying
Monuments showing the dead in a medallion
Representation of Death in Baroque sculptures
Three chapels by Gian Lorenzo Bernini
Bernini's Exiled Statue
Baroque Monuments to the Popes
Baroque High Reliefs
Statues Close to Heaven
Embittered Andrew (the statues in St. Peter's octagon)
Playing with Colours
See also my List of Baroque Architects and my Directory of Baroque Sculpture.